An example of someone frantically reaching for pills. Photo from Pixabay.
An example of someone frantically reaching for pills. Photo from Pixabay.

A Lynwood doctor will be sentenced in March for illegally distributing Norco, Xanax and Soma opiate painkillers and sedatives by selling lucrative prescriptions out of his two-person clinic.

Dr. Edward Ridgill was found guilty late Monday of 26 federal counts of illegally distributing the federally controlled opiate painkiller Norco, the sedative Xanax and the muscle relaxer Soma. The three-pill combination produces a powerful “high” and is known to drug abusers as the “trinity,” a federal drug agent testified.

“Every doctor has a duty to care for their patients,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Sun Ahn said in her opening statement last week. The defendant, she said, “abandoned” that duty, becoming a source for addictive drugs who illegally distributed them “through his prescription pad.”

Ridgill wrote “repeated, high-volume, maximum-dose” prescriptions in exchange for cash during a three-year period between July 2011 and July 2014 for no legitimate purpose and outside the course of normal medical practice, Ahn said.

When investigators searched Ridgill’s clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, they seized stacks of cash “stuffed in the receptionist’s desk drawer” and “in and among patient files,” she told the jury.

Defense attorney David Joseph Sutton argued that although his client may have cut corners in his practice, Ridgill was not dealing drugs.

“The government’s theory is that he abandoned his intent to act like a medical doctor and instead became a common drug dealer,” Sutton said. “Bad medicine is not drug dealing.”

The 65-year-old physician could be sentenced to decades behind bars when he appears March 19 before U.S. District Judge S. James Otero.

Evidence during the week-long trial in downtown Los Angeles included covertly recorded visits to Ridgill’s office by confidential sources connected to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force. Prior to seeing the doctor, sources concealed miniature cameras in cups, buttons, hats and purses, according to court documents.

In most instances, Ridgill sold the prescriptions without ever examining the undercover officer or cooperating witness, evidence showed. A medical expert’s independent review of the recordings and seized patient files determined that there was no legitimate medical basis for the prescriptions.

The defendant maintained two Bank of America accounts in which he deposited thousands of dollars every month, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 2014 alone, Ridgill deposited $175,697 in cash, prosecutors said.

“Defendant did not deposit the cash through a teller; instead, he manually fed the bills into ATMs, a behavior, which, again, suggests a desire to evade detection,” according to the government’s trial memorandum.

Special Agent Keith Bridgford of the DEA testified that the combination of Norco, Xanax and Soma is known on the street as the “trinity” or “unholy trinity” and is highly sought-after by addicts for its “synergetic value.”

–City News Service

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